Work from anywhere as a trend of the near future. How is the virtualisation of organisations going to impact the work content?
By enabling employees to work from their homes during the pandemic, a number of companies were able to maintain their operation continuity. At the same time, the work-from-home model appeared to suit many employees. How to comply with these employees‘ wishes while maintaining good results is a new challenge both for employers and team leaders. The so-called hybrid workplace or work from anywhere may be the solution here. What do these models entail? How will the work requirements themselves change with their introduction? And how to prepare the company for the new forms of remote work? These are some of the many questions every modern organisation should be asking.
The future of work outside the office entails a number of changes on many fronts. The content and form of work itself as well as the workforce and work environment will undergo transformation. In this article, we mainly focus on the first two areas mentioned but if you wish to learn more about the future of work, read our next article, in which we address the workplace and its transformation.
Focus on people
It has always been about the people – customers, employees, vendors, and just everyone. Changing the way people work has a direct impact on the way they think, how they feel, what things they do differently, and their attitude. At Deloitte, we help our clients understand which phase of this transformation they are in, what are the key things they have already done and what key things they still need to do to get their desired outcomes. Mental health is one of the big topics and for a good reason. People are social creatures, yet each of us is a unique individual. Pulling away from physical contact leaves a void that must be filled somehow.
Virtual teams are being shaped, and leaders have to find a way to motivate their teams, value their work, coach them, and secure their growth. Innovation is very hard to do online. People have to be engaged with the team, the work, the common cause. Leading and managing people has always been a very delicate discipline because you can’t see the results immediately. It can take years before the fruits can be picked. In the virtual world, this is multiplied. The only person in control of what happens behind the monitor of each employee is the employee themselves.
And very often the negatives only appear once it‘s too late. Burnout, for example, will become more common than before if people are not provided with sufficient communication, contact and discussions about well-being. When the basic levels of Maslow‘s pyramid are fulfilled, it is very difficult to virtually accept the fourth level – esteem needs, feelings of accomplishment. When no one actually comes to you, shakes your hand, pats you on the back and says “Good job!“, it can be disruptive to your personal development and overall happiness.
Ask the data
There are two sides to every coin, and the effort the organization puts into well-being must pay off in employee performance. It is a two-way relationship, and both parties have to comply with their responsibilities in order for this synergy to work. Performance monitoring tools already exist and create a good basis for finding room for improvement in people, technology and processes.
Data analytics already play a very effective role when it comes to HR. We are able to predict the probable resignation of an employee based on available data about the changes in their career, focus, role or position, team size, expertise, organization network, social-interaction mapping and other factors. When physical contact is missing, an employee’s dissatisfaction may be hidden to all eyes, but the data will recognize a pattern and predict that something is just not right. Countermeasures can be adopted in a timely manner and the situation improved.
Do not stay in one place
Employee retention and human resources in general have taken on a completely new course, opening up new possibilities. Starting with the company‘s own employees, new ways of delivering training have to be found, as well as how candidates are hired and introduced to the team, and how to effectively utilize the virtual environment.
With more and more people chasing the idea of working from anywhere, physical proximity of the candidate to the office is secondary criteria. In fact, you are able to extend your search across Europe, or the world. Contractors are experiencing higher demand for their services and increasing crowdsourcing offers to engage with. Imagine a company that has no employees, the work is broken down into specific tasks that are distributed to individual contractors or specialists on a crowdsourcing platform. In this way, an ideal cost-effective solution to the workforce can be created, with no strings attached.
Disrupt the status quo
Not every activity can be done remotely and still be able to maintain the virtual status quo. The work itself needs to be bent. From simple digitalization to completely reimagining processes, the work has to be remotely accessible and executable as much as possible. Transforming the work also brings space for optimization, automation, machine learning, more agile principles and outcome-oriented work. At this moment, it is white-collar jobs that have the biggest potential to shift, but with the rise of artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual reality, concepts like Digital Twin are on the table too. Heavy machinery can already be controlled remotely and in the end, what does it matter if the controller is located in another hemisphere? Ultimately, there could be a walking-talking robot at a construction site being controlled via a VR headset from a sofa. But we’re not quite there yet.
Keep the possibility to choose
Last but not least, even though working from anywhere sounds as catchy as can be, people will still want to come to the office from time to time to socialize or just for a change of environment. Many companies have already started promoting offices as a benefit, while working from home is the boring standard. Real estate management is the last piece in the puzzle, as busy open offices are already history. Individual offices, flexi-offices, co-working memberships – these are modern solutions that companies have started to choose as the “new normal”.
Office space costs are a significant item in the budget, and being able to cut that cost is a huge money saver. Western markets are already especially well aware of it. And it’s no wonder. People will come to the office to actually focus on work, be more productive, and conduct a collaborative task with colleagues. Developers and landlords have to respond to that by structuring and equipping the office adequately. No one will be keen on coming to a loud and crowded office just to sit through the workday anymore.
The new options bring such flexibility – imagine an office space being like a gym membership, just pick the closest co-working space in the city wherever you are and that can be your office. The trend also suggests that the technological capabilities of offices will move towards touchless controls, antibacterial materials, more private space and so on.
Find the new normal
Everything is being affected by the ongoing transformation of the way we work. Customers and vendors are part of this change and interactions with them will require different approaches. But one thing is clear: change is inevitable and the new normal is already becoming. There will always be individuals, pushing for working solely from home or solely from the office, but the vast majority will enjoy a virtual hybrid. Towards which option your company leans, either home or office, will depend on your industry, strategy or culture. Everyone needs to find the right balance that suits them the best.
How to efficiently monitor and improve remote work?
It can be done using our APAT tool (Automatic Process Analytics Tool), which checks the work activity on a computer, monitors the workload of internal teams and identifies routine activities for individuals and teams. The collected data is used to suggest processes where automation and enhancement are desirable, all in accordance with legislative and security requirements. Also read our article on how companies can benefit from an adaptive or hybrid workplace.